A Year in Review

Final ReviewWhen you’re in graduate school, you think the end of the semester will never come. Long nights, Revit crashes and endless amounts of bad coffee become your life. We’ve all been there. We all know what it’s like to be cutting basswood with an exacto knife at 4 am and thinking “this is a really, really bad idea”. Every semester, I attempted to manage my time in a way that would not result in the end of semester rush. But, no amount of time-management kept me out of the computer lab in the final hours.

Finally, after seven long years and nine studios, I have found myself on the other side of the Final Review. This week I participated in the University of Colorado’s architectural final reviews for Fred Andreas’ Advanced Greenbuild Studio. This was much preferred to staying up all night, building a model and trying to look presentable on zero sleep. (Perhaps it was because I was actually able to go to bed before 10 pm all of Thanksgiving break and the following week.)

I am well aware that the architectural profession learning curve increases exponentially when you become a full-time employee and work non-stop with real world constraints. Participating in this Final Review was the first time that I actually noticed how much I have learned and grown as a professional in the past year. My mindset was different; the projects evoked different questions than when I was a design student. I kept thinking “yes, but what is the cost of using that material?” and “where is the waterproofing in your wall section?” I refrained from asking some questions because I know certain aspects of a project cannot be explored in a semester and those particular questions always annoyed me as a student as well.

The very studio that I was reviewing was the final studio I participated in before graduating last year. It was not too long ago. I remembered the organization of the semester, Fred’s requirements and the freedom to explore design solutions without a client. I even remembered some of the reviewers because they had participated a year ago. This got me thinking about the very purpose of architectural education, something that has been debated hotly in the past few years. Thoughts about education have been formulating in my head for a while but engaging in a review in an educational setting solidified that architectural education and professional employment play very separate roles in the overall training of an architect. Should employers expect students to know how to fully detail a wall section with an R-Value of 36? Who knows, I suppose it depends on what skills are important to the hiring firm. I do believe that some skills are best learned in an office setting and some skills such as critical thinking, exploration and concept development are the important skills learned in architectural school.

All professionals should be engaged in the future of architectural education. It is the common denominator between architects and it is the best recruiting tool we have to keep our profession alive. It is important to stay engaged in what is happening in academia as much as it is important to bring a professional voice to Final Studio reviews.

A few colleagues and Fred asked if I missed it. “It” being the studio review and the arduous hours spent leading up to it. I have to admit, I enjoy being employed and spending my free time on things other than homework. However, there is a little part of me that misses school. Just a little bit…

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